Marc Gabor & Lanya Snyder
Which came first—the band or the album? In the case of Here We Go Magic, the answer’s complicated. The group’s history reads like a chicken-and-egg riddle: the band as we know it didn’t exist until well after Here We Go Magic’s self-titled debut hit shelves early last year.
It’s a strange situation for a band to be in—all the stranger because at the time the first album was being recorded, most of the band’s current members had never even heard of Here We Go Magic. The group started as a private vision of its founder, Luke Temple, who was enjoying a successful solo career as a singer-songwriter when he stumbled across some early recordings he had made on an old four-track. Temple was hooked by the sound, which he says felt more spontaneous and organic than the polished tracks on his first two LPs, Snowbeast and Hold a Match for a Gasoline World.
Temple had a good thing going on his own—Sufjan Stevens once said his is “one of the most beautiful voices in pop music”—but he knew he’d need to call in some outside help for his new project; the raw, expansive sound he was envisioning was better suited to a band than a one-man act. But Temple took an unconventional approach to making group music: he holed himself up in his room with an outdated piece of recording equipment (in this case, his trusty four-track), and set about recording alone an album that would someday be worthy of a band.
When the album was complete and the time came to find a band to play live shows, Temple turned to two friends, drummer Peter Hale and guitarist Michael Bloch. After a few initial shows, friend-of-a-friend Kristina Lieberson was tapped for keyboards.
As one might guess, making the transition from the bedroom to the stage was a halting process. The songs that had flowed so naturally out of Temple’s own subconscious suddenly had to be partitioned, their parts divided between several musicians. Although this writer would beg to disagree, one of the band’s first shows—a February 2009 performance at Southpaw, a music venue in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood—is widely regarded as a disaster by the band members themselves. Almost all the members, that is.
“I saw them play and I fucking freaked out,” says bassist Jennifer Turner about that early show. At the time, she was playing in the opening band, but that show changed everything. “I was like, ‘That’s the best show I’ve ever seen at my life,’” remembers Turner. “I was freaking out.”
“She was coming up to me in the hallway afterward and telling me all this crap about how amazing we were,” agrees Bloch. “We were all feeling really bummed about that show—we were like, ‘Man, that’s embarrassing.’ And she was the only one who liked it.”
Turner soon offered up her services as a bassist, and after some initial skepticism (“well, you’re crazy,” was Bloch’s first response), the band took her on. And the leap of faith paid off; the first note Turner played at their rehearsal the next day turned into a half-hour jam session.
“We all looked up when we were done and were like, ‘whew!’” remembers Turner. “I didn’t stop smiling for like four days. It was like when you go out with a boy—you guys are all really cool,” she gushes, turning to Bloch and Temple, who just smile and take it all in stride.
“It took us a few weeks to stop thinking she was crazy,” admits Bloch.
Unfazed, Turner continues. “This band is really special, the way that everyone gets along.”
“We all love being together,” Lieberson agrees. “I feel like the actual interpersonal stuff—dealing with people’s personalities and living with people—is more of a challenge than making music.”
If that’s the case, Here We Go Magic has it made. Watching the bandmates interact, one has the feeling they’ve been playing together for their whole lives, not just a few months. “It’s beyond me—when I pick up an instrument and I play with these guys I always feel totally psyched,” says Turner. “Everyone’s so good. Everyone has a particular thing and the way it all fits together is so magical—I mean, so magical.”
That’s not just a clever sound byte. The entire enterprise of Here We Go Magic now rests on the collaborative spirit that Temple was anticipating when he sat down to record the first Here We Go Magic album. Each member now has input in the creative process, both in live shows and recording sessions (the band spent this past fall holed up in a house in upstate New York, hammering out their new album). To get a better sense of how the transition from solo project to group effort is going, we took Luke Temple aside for a few words.
Read the Interview Continued on page 12